Promoting Your Masterpiece: No-Budget Self-Distribution for
the Post-Post-Production Process
In the world of no-budget filmmakers, financial and time resources are often small or nonexistent. The lucky thing for us is the hundreds, even thousands, of ways to get our work out there in the public eye after it’s completed so that we’re ensured an audience and possibly even a profit from our hard work. I, for one, love making movies and labor to make a career out of it. I know many people through online networking who think similarly, and work hard to make filmmaking their careers as well. The only problem is how to go about doing that, since you’re just the average little guy making some on-the-side video projects and small films? First, do your homework; then, do your work; and finally, don’t stop. One of the most important things is not to let an effort peter out; if you were working on promoting a project, and then start working on a new project, don't let the original promotional effort fade out – simply redirect the energy towards your new project, keeping new updates and activity obvious, so fans will stay interested. There is much we can all do as small-time filmmakers to promote, screen and even distribute our films at very little or no cost at all to ourselves. Here are some methods for doing just that.
First, build awareness. Charity causes (not that your film is a “charity cause,” by any means) never get attention simply by existing. And if you think about it, humans themselves rarely get attention when they merely exist in their space and don’t interact with anybody. The hardest part is finding the right venue to give your film a big (and continuously growing) audience. Thanks to sites like YouTube, we can now put our short films online all over the web, on many different sites, presumably acquiring each of those site’s individual visitors as our videos are posted on each site. Visitors to these sites often come in two types: regulars and the random visitors stumbling across the site. The regular visitors are people with accounts on YouTube, or other sites like it, who subscribe to other users’ videos, regularly check their accounts for updates from other people, add their own videos, and are active on the site – watching, commenting, rating and otherwise interacting with the other users and their content. These form the dependable audience at any video sharing site. The random visitors usually stumble across a site from a blog, forum or other website linking to a video on that particular site. So by posting on YouTube, you can tap into at least the dependable audience of that site by getting people already subscribed to your videos to watch them more, and by word of mouth to promote your new content. Essentially, this means that when you upload a video to your account on YouTube, and post bulletins or send messages to friends about it, you can assume that you’ve acquired an audience (however small) on that site simply by posting and sending one message duplicated to many users. Now, imagine that on over 10+ video sharing sites, and you’ve generated a fair-sized audience for a no-budget production.
When people comment on your work—leaving thoughts, questions, reactions, any kind of feedback—you know you’ve provoked a response. Typically (in narrative work anyway), any kind of response is good, because it forced the viewer to respond verbally (and not only verbally but in writing) to your work – you affected them enough to make them respond to your work, directly to you, the creator.
Now, video sharing sites are not the only form of social networking. Social networking sites themselves are great opportunities for costless but invaluable self-promotion. Sites likeFacebook, MySpace, Ning, LinkedIn and others allow the creation of full-fledged pages, blogs, websites, video and photo albums and even professional networks of people involved in the project to promote your work. On MySpace, for example, the most popular social networking site of the decade, you can sign up as a regular user or a filmmaking user in a matter of minutes (or seconds, depending on how much you type – and don’t skimp here, any positive, energetic words said are great words said.) Keep your descriptions brief but enticing enough to keep the viewers interested in the rest of the page. A great way to suck a potential audience member into your site is to provide a snazzy opening graphic with a poster-style image from the movie, some praise made by people of relative stature (we’ll get into this later), and a short description of the film; just a few sentences or a tagline, dramatic enough to entice someone, short enough to make them want more, but long and full enough to let them decide if they’ll really be interested in your work.